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Mrs Tida’s Interview on the Revised Amnesty Bill

news_img_471018_1The following is the translation of an excerpt from Mrs. Tida Tavonseth’s interview regarding the revised amnesty bill with Matichon’s reporter, Mr. Fahrung Srikhao, on 21 October 2013.

The president of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) answered questions and showed her disagreement on the proposed blanket amnesty by citing the organization’s commitment to their supporters and the prevention of another violent crackdown in the future.

Matichon: What is the UDD’s reaction on the blanket amnesty proposed by Pheu Thai MPs?

Tida: UDD does not agree with a blanket amnesty. From careful assessment by the co-leaders and a good majority of the people, especially Red Shirts, even though they love Thaksin, they also do not agree.

This is a development from the past. Since the beginning, after the 2010 crackdown, the UDD has been maintaining that the Red Shirts do not want amnesty because we believe that what we have done was right and we want the culprits to be punished.

However, since justice has been delayed, the UDD now needs to soothe the grievances of the people through amnesty. This much, we have changed.

Amnesty for all is unacceptable. It is not our way, it’s excessive. Pheu Thai Party and Thaksin have to understand the UDD’s position because we are the people’s organization in this political struggle. We are not a political party. Therefore, we cannot betray the people.

We are a democratic organization and the people have the power. The co-leaders cannot tell them what to do. A democratic assembly and the set of values practiced by the organization mean that we have to abide by the people’s wishes.

From our assessment of the oppositions and allies, we have proposed an emergency decree amnesty bill with similar contents that was later transformed into MP Worachai Hema’s bill. This proposal was written with the concern to keep resistance from the opposition down to a minimum.

If we were able to get everything our way, we would have wanted amnesty for the Red Shirts only and full punishment for the Yellow Shirts co-leaders and the ones responsible for the crackdown. But in reality, we realize that we cannot do that.

Facing up to this reality, the UDD proposed an amnesty bill that would pardon the people, except co-leaders and the masterminds behind the crackdown. We believe that this would create less of a conflict and could be justifiable even though in reality, we were the victims.

Matichon: How would the opposition use the proposed blanket amnesty to their advantage?

Tida: The various opposition groups might use this opportunity to incite further mobilization of the anti-government groups while trying to legitimize their claims. Based on principles and dignity, what happened to Thaksin was unjustifiable. He was wrongly accused by those with a hidden political agenda. He should fight for the amendment of Article 309 as a way out for his predicament instead of trying to sneak in with the people’s amnesty bill.

We are not even sure how the bill would benefit Thaksin since article 309 is still in use. Thaksin has to simply re-think things over because this matter is complicated and there is a need to sees things from all sides concerned.

If you are thinking from only one side and you want Thaksin to come home, are you sure you are thinking things through thoroughly? From my experience when I met with the people, 99% of them said they want the culprits behind the killing of the civilians to be punished. They do not want incidents similar to those of October 14 and October 6 to repeat themselves over and over again because enough is enough. The massacre of people on the streets going unpunished should not be part of Thailand’s history in the future anymore.

The people’s retaliation against such atrocities is unprecedented in this country. Thisis the biggest one in Thailand’s history. Of course, there were huge throngs of protestors during 14 October and 6 October but they did not last as long and multiply as they did with the Red Shirt’s movement.Therefore, if the people of this era are not brave enough to ask for justice, then which generation would?

If there is no accountability, this act of violence will continue to happen over and over again. The people who have lived through October 6 and 14 incidents are looking back at history with dismay sincethey were unable to claim justice for the dead. The people of this generation are stronger. Therefore, they should have the courage to fight for justice and for the fallen.

For the people who can only see things from one side, I would like to kindly ask them to think of the majority of the people and the Red Shirts supporters. Amnesty acts in the past were all blanket amnesties. This “Thai style” amnesty of forgiving and forgetting along with the “Thai style” coup d’état should also no longer take place.

Matichon: What are the reasons for the UDD to not accept the proposed blanket amnesty?

Tida: Red Shirt supporters have their own identity since their struggle in 2010 and they cannot get rid of this individuality. They might not be the “October Generation” but they cannot erase their own history as it would be a betrayal to themselves and to the victims.No matter what had happened in the past or present, the Red Shirts will not agree with a blanket amnesty proposal and they certainly will not exchange Thaksin’s freedom for Abhisit’s and Suthep’s jail-free card.

Facing this fact, the UDD has no other choice but to propose the people’s amnesty bill that will grant pardon for political prisoners of all colours except co-leaders even though it means that core members of the organization will be open to serious allegations such as terrorism charges. We have the grievances and the hardship of the people in mind. This is why we proposed such conditions in the bill. We cannot agree with a blanket amnesty act.

We want the trials to begin. We want indictments. We want the truth to come out. This is what we want, even if we have to trade it with the freedom of the co-leaders. This is their turn to show their leadership quality of determination and sacrifice. They have to show that they are not hiding behind the people while letting others die in vain.

Matichon: Do you think Pheu Thai Party will back down from the blanket amnesty proposal?

Tida: If there is heavy resistance from the Red Shirts and the Yellow Shirts mass, Pheu Thai party might back down from the bill and they should. Another thing that they should be doing is to amend Article 309 of the constitution concerning independent organizations that were set up by the coup makers. If you revise the amnesty bill but leave Section 309 untouched, how would that help anything?

Matichon: How do you assess the anti-government movement?

Tida: The current anti-government demonstrations will not outsize the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest when Thaksin’s was ousted in 2006. However, with that being said, there are some concerns regarding the due date of the World Court’s decision on Phra Vihear land dispute issue because the anti-government movements are waiting to use it as an excuse to gather more mass if the court ruled against Thailand’s claim of territory.

At the moment, the people are starting to see things from both sides. They will not join force to overthrow this government because they are able to accept the majority of its policies. The main body of the Red Shirts will stay put since most people are already experiencing a headache. If the UDD started to move, it will escalate the tensions.

The current anti-government movement is made up of parts of the previous extremist groups such as PAD and some sections of Democrat Party supporters. From various rally speeches of the Democrats, it is clear that Mr Suthep Thaugsuban had made up his mind and is determined to take the fight outside the parliament.

Let me say this to the opposition party: If you think there is something wrong with this government, why don’t you just advertise it? Tell the people how bad they are. Why don’t you listen to the suggestions of Mr Alongkorn Ponlaboot? If you have the majority vote in the next election and you win, the Red Shirts will not protest against it and even applaud it because we believe in a democratic system.

Matichon: If you were to read the minds of Thaksin, Suthep and Abhisit, what do think they will say about a blanket amnesty?

Tida: I was also wondering. Abhisit does not seem to be against it that much but instead he has chosen to speak out about money. I felt he should have been more outspoken on the amnesty bill which makes me believe that he is waiting to benefit from it. The charge that was brought against him is much more severe than Thaksin’s minor sentence. Thaksin won’t sweat about the 4 billion because the way of thinking of the conservative mind and the modern day businessman is different.

Conservative thinkers do not know how to make money. Whatever they have, they will try very hard to hold on to it. They even kill each other for heritage. But for someone who knows how to make money, he would say, “Take it, I’ll find anew”. This is the difference between the new modern investors group and people who hang on to their precious land while invading the protected rainforest.

Even if Thaksin were to not benefit from the amnesty bill because of Section 309, the persons who will certainly benefit from it, will be definitely be Abhisit and Suthep. Murder charges for 99 bodies is a serious allegation but they are more relaxed about it than UDD co-leaders. The charges that were brought against the co-leaders are not minor either.

They are being charged for terrorism even though they did not kill anyone nor lead others to their death. The co-leaders have told the public that they do not want to benefit from a blanket amnesty but meanwhile, Sondhi (Limthongkul) remains conspicuously silent.

Matichon: How many Red shirts are still incarcerated?

Tida: There are 27 Red Shirt political prisoners at Lak Sri temporary prison while 112 prisoners such as, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, are being held at Bangkok Remand Prison in Klong Prem. Personally, I would also like to see all 112 prisoners protected by the amnesty bill.

Apart from the people in jail, there are hundreds of people that are still on the run from their cases. Some of them were sentenced to up to 30 years in prison. Many others, also in their hundreds, were granted bail and are waiting for their trials. All of these are people who can also benefit from the amnesty bill.

Matichon: What mistake actually led to Pheu Thai’s proposal for a blanket amnesty?

Tida: They are looking at things from the perspective of a politician and not from that of a fighter. This is the most important point. A political party can only see political business which is similar to the opinion of the people who sit on top of a pyramid. They want to negotiate because they also want to remain on top of the pyramid along with the others.However, the people who come from the base of the pyramid,have fought their way up to become a fighter. Fighters do not think in the same way. Their souls are different. Their judgement is different. If you asked a fighter, he would say that he never would have come up with such a proposal.

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